Take 5 | Penguins need to move on from Kapanen, Grizzlies are the team to beat in the West and more


AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Kasperi Kapanen (42), left, and New Jersey Devils center Yegor Sharangovich (17) during a game on Sunday, Feb. 13 in Newark, New Jersey.

By The Pitt News Staff

In this week’s Take 5, The Pitt News Sports Desk takes a look at a couple of NBA and NHL trade deadline concepts, a potential unheralded team to make a run deep into the NBA playoffs and more.

Penguins need to deal Kasperi Kapanen before the trade deadline // Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

After re-acquiring winger Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2020 offseason, the Penguins had high hopes for the young Finn.

Pittsburgh had selected Kapanen in the first round of the 2014 draft but traded him north of the border in exchange for Phil Kessel — who eventually became a keystone player in the Pens’ 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup runs.

After Kessel’s departure, Kapanen figured to be a great candidate to fill the hole that Kessel left. Initially, this seemed to ring true. Kapanen racked up 30 points in 40 games played with the Penguins last season and was trending upward.

But Kapanen has hit a wall. So far this season, he has nine goals in 51 games, despite fans expecting him to be one of the Penguins’ top scorers. Possibly the most concerning stat is that Kapanen’s shooting percentage has been almost cut in half, dropping from 16.2% to a mere 9.5%, despite playing with some of the best forwards in the NHL.

The Penguins are in a position to win the Stanley Cup once again this year, and having a project like Kapanen on their salary — who carries a $3.2 million salary-cap hit — and on the ice is only slowing them down. The Crosby-Malkin-Letang championship window is closing, and both the Penguins and Kapanen would benefit from pressing the reset button.

Promote NDSU Football // Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

There has been plenty of conference turnover within Division 1 athletics, most notably with Texas and Oklahoma spurning the Big 12 for the SEC.

But North Dakota State is staying put when perhaps they shouldn’t. The Bison have won nine of the last 11 Football Championship Subdivision national championships and have never lost a title game in that span. They most recently defeated Montana State on Jan. 10 for the crown and at one point carried a 39-game winning streak.

NDSU has the attendance numbers that the NCAA wants — they require an average of 15,000 fans per game and NDSU averaged 18,186 from 2015-19. But the school does not have the required number of sports for promotion — they need 16 sports with at least six for men and eight for women. NDSU has 14 at the moment.

But there are schools that play football in different FBS conferences. Navy plays football in the American and the Patriot League for every other sport. Hawai’i plays football in the Mountain West, but its remaining sports play in the Big West. Finding an affiliate conference for football could be easier for the Bison, and there are some possibilities.

If Sam Houston can move up to the FBS after one title, NDSU can most certainly do it after nine.

Young Grizzlies will go far in the playoffs // Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

With Phoenix Suns all-star point guard Chris Paul sidelined with a thumb injury for six to eight weeks, the reigning western conference champions are vulnerable without their star player. Suddenly, the Western Conference is wide open.

Will Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors step up as favorites? Will last season’s MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets take a leap? Neither.

MVP candidate and All-Star guard Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies are red-hot and will be a scary matchup for any team in the West. The team with the second-youngest roster in the NBA also sits at 41-19, good for No. 3 in the Western Conference.

What’s in the way for the Grizzlies? Nothing. The Sun are trending down due to injury. Curry is in a massive shooting slump, and the Warriors are paying for it in the loss column. The Los Angeles Lakers are a mess. The Denver Nuggets and the Dallas Mavericks don’t have enough support around their star players.

We’re still more than a month out from the play-in tournament, so time will tell what happens out west. But at this point, the Grizzlies should be favorites to win the Western Conference post-all-star break.

The Lakers should trade Lebron James // Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

Reports surfaced this week of rising tensions between Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Rumors also circulated that Lebron may be open to leaving Los Angeles and rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Lakers are struggling to stay in playoff contention. If Lebron seems dead set on leaving the reeling Lakers, then it would be logical for the team to trade the aging superstar.

Trading Lebron could give the Lakers much needed rejuvenation with young players and draft picks. The Lakers currently have the oldest roster in the league, meaning that acquiring young talent must be a top priority for the franchise. In contrast, if Lebron leaves in free agency, then the team will receive no compensation and will struggle to rebuild their aging roster.

Grant Fisher rocks a record-breaking 5K in Boston // Will McGlynn, Staff Writer

Grant Fisher of the Bowerman track club ran an unreal 12:53.73 5K race at Boston University, shattering Galen Rupp’s American indoor 5K record of 13:01.26. Fisher took the pace with about 1000 meters to go and kept drilling quick laps to finish well under the American record. Fisher dragged along some of his teammates to some other historic marks, like Mo Ahmed’s new Canadian record of 12:56.87 and Marc Scott to a new U.K. record of 12:57.08.

Fisher was a standout since his high school years, winning national championships in cross country and on the track. Fisher continued on the college scene at Stanford University but couldn’t get his hands on an NCAA title. This past summer, Fisher qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in both the 5K and 10K distances.

Fisher has already established himself as a great runner, but no one expected this level of dominance. This was Fisher’s season opener, and he looked as smooth as ever. Fisher has shown lethal closing speed, but it has been a long time since he has been able to win a big race. Fisher not only won, but dominated this field which featured multiple Olympians and tons of records. Watch for Fisher to take over the American distance running scene.